Virgin Atlantic, the airline founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Executives say the move is part of a court process to restructure the company’s finances, and has the support of the airline’s major creditors and owners. Delta Air Lines, which holds a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic, has agreed to defer payments it is owned, and hedge fund Davidson Kempner has agreed to loan the airline nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.
“The approval process is in motion and we expect the recapitalization to come into effect in September,” Virgin Atlantic said in a statement.
Branson remains the majority owner in the airliner, the man worth an estimated $4.7 billion retaining a 51 percent stake.
The Virgin Group is the parent organization to Virgin Atlantic. In March of 2018, Virgin, along with Bosworth Hospitality Partners and investment and real estate development firms Juniper Capital Partners and Fengate Asset Management, acquired the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for an undisclosed sum.
The off-Strip property is undergoing a $600 million makeover to transition from a rock ‘n’ roll-themed resort to the sleek Virgin Hotels brand.
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, as the property will be officially known, will feature a casino floor measuring 60,000 square feet, 1,505 guestrooms, “world-class restaurants,” 130,000-square-feet of convention space, five-acre pool complex, and a 3,500-seat theater.
Virgin says the resort will be a “modern desert resort oasis.”
COVID-19 shuttered all Nevada casinos for two and a half months earlier this year. But construction was deemed essential and permitted to continue.
The Virgin Hotels website says the Las Vegas resort will open this fall. However, as one Las Vegas local pointed out to Casino.org today, the Curio Collection by Hilton website, which will operate part of the property, lists its opening in January of 2021.
In April, Richard Bosworth said the company has had no disruption to construction or the schedule.
While the project marks Branson’s first foray into the gaming industry, the billionaire seems bullish on Southern Nevada. Virgin Group acquired the project rights to XpressWest last year.
XpressWest is a multibillion-dollar development that would connect Las Vegas with Victorville, California. The high-speed rail would transport travelers at speeds up to 180 mph, connecting Southern California and Southern Nevada in a little more than an hour.
Currently, the drive time between the two regions is about three hours.
“It could be enormous for Vegas,” Andy Kunz, president and CEO of the US High Speed Rail Association, told Casino.org in February. “It could double the number of people coming to Vegas.”